flASH fiction: Volume 3: Moving Mountains (38)

 

Moving Mountains
By
Jason Pere

It was the most peaceful march though the wilds of Frostdale that Rin had experienced to date. Each patrol the boy had previously lead was wrought with a slew of never-ending chimera attacks. When he had ventured beyond the seal wall of the great city days and nights often ran together in haunting vignettes of nothing but blood and cold. The trek to the mountain stronghold where the mass of the northern chimera number dwelt had been a complete departure for the normal. Not so much as a tooth had been shown in the Amurai’s direction. The long walk to the hidden bastion was totally void of incident. Neither beast nor harsh weather had impeded the Argaian army from reaching it’s intended destination. This time it was the foreboding peace that stuck Rin with the greatest measure of discomfort. The bloodless foray into the wilds was a fitting calm before the storm.

Three short blasts from the war horns at the rear of the Amurai formation signaled that chimera had come up on the regiment’s back. Rin whipped his head around after discharging a bone breaking blast of icy magic into the beasts defending the mouth of the tunnel that descended into the mountain. The boy’s eyes darted from side to side in the momentary lull that followed his powerful killing spell. He saw mobs of beasts spring from concealed tunnels located all about the frosty terrain that surrounded the mountain. Rin chided himself for believing that the ease with which his host assaulted the mouth of the caves would be indicative of the effort needed to fully break the creatures. Whether the chimera had been expecting the Amurai or their defenses were general kept in such a formidable state of readiness was irrelevant at this point. Rin had let his army become surrounded by the enemy.

Rin thought to maneuver to the rear of the regiment and lend his hand where the fighting had rapidly grown so intense. He did not get more than three paces before a new wave of monstrous things poured out from the mouth of the main cave. The furious charge of the creatures shattered the previous mob of chimera that had been frozen solid in place by Rin’s magical strength. The Amurai commander prepared himself to receive the charge of the twisted things as they trampled the shards of that which had just been their brethren. The boy screamed like the crack of thunder and launched another volley of ice into the chimera. While the rear of the Forstdale army came under siege, Rin had become trapped at the vanguard of the battle.

The Argaian warriors fought valiantly but for all their fervor and zeal they could not best the creatures born of the red rains. As the battle wore on the Amurai regiment began to dwindle as it was beset on all sides. Rin tapped into reserves of power that he had never touched before in order to slow the impending envelopment of his force. As the cold of Frostdale’s wind cut across his bare arms and froze his breath in the air as soon as it passed his lips, he felt an intense burning within that betrayed the ever-present cold.

“Commander, we can try and cut a path on our left flank. The chimera are not as strong there and if we can break through it will give us an avenue of retreat,” said Errow as he rejoined Rin at the boy’s side. The battle scared Amurai discarded the splintered haft of the pike that he had been wielding and wiped away a stream of scarlet that was cascading down his forehead from a wound on his scalp.

“No, no retreat. If we run they will be breathing down our backs all the way back to the seal wall. We will never make it out of the wilds like that. It is victory or death for us now,” Rin said passionately. He staggered and swayed as his magical display of battle prowess came to collect its weighty toll.

“We are nearly half our number. I think death is more likely than victory,” Errow said grimly as he drew his broadsword and moved to support the failing frontline of the Amurai formation.

Rin wanted to refute Errow’s trademark pessimism but as he searched the reaches of his spirit for some hopeful words he could not find anything to say that was not bred of delusional optimism. Errow Cutwick was right, death was a near certainty at this stage of the fight. The risky gambit that Rin had lead his army on was marked for failure. The boy felt the fire raging within his belly rear up and send magnificent waves of emotion pulsing all throughout his body. Rin had struggled to comprehend the feeling that had taken seed within him. It was more than fear of failure or death. As Rin saw Errow take a blow from a white bearlike thing that broke his arm and nearly separated it from his body, he was able to name the feeling that controlled him. Rin was overtaken with self-loathing and hatred for his own being. It was the most profound measure of wrath that he had ever felt.

“There is another way, order the withdrawal,” Rin growled to Errow as his wounded guard cradled his limp arm.

“Yes, Commander,” Errow responded though bloody teeth and a pain filled wince.

Rin offered the remaining Amurai force an outstanding rear guard defense. He drew upon his brooding anger and used it to fuel his wintery magical bolts of energy. Rin’s fury was reaching a monumental climax that allowed him to touch the very core of Argaia’s heart and control the land itself. He summoned two great sheets of ice, thick as any castle wall and just as high to separate the Amurai from the chimera. He watched amid the astonished gasps of his troops as they filed through the newly made valley. Rin did not move from his position, all his focus was locked on keeping the barrier walls in place long enough for his army to break free.

“Commander, we can not lag behind the rest of the regiment,” Errow said to the boy holding the walls aloft with nothing but anger and force of will.

“Go on then. I can not hold these walls forever,” Rin grunted though his weary exertion.
“Sir, if you stay behind, you will die. The Amurai will be without a leader,” Errow protested.
“Maybe but the Amurai fought the chimera before I came to Frostdale and now you will be able to continue fighting them after I am gone,” said Rin with eyes burning bright. “Unless you want to join me when the walls come down, you need to go now!”

“I can see that I misjudged you. It has been an honor sir,” Errow said as he rapped the hound’s sigil embedded on his breastplate. He took a few tentative steps down the path at first before turning completely away from Rin and moving as quickly as he could to follow the rest of the retreating soldiers.

Rin held the walls until his body threatened to snap in half. The boy did not give up his staunch defense even as blood began to pour from his ears and nose. Rin held the walls until he saw the last of the Amurai disappear into the consuming white of Frostdale’s wilds. With a measure of long awaited peace Rin ceased his spell and let the icy barricaded come crashing down to the snow all around him. There was the most fleeting moment of calm that followed the walls destruction. Soon after the broken shards of ice had settled the battlefield was filled with the hissing and snarling of nightmare creatures once more.

The chimera moved in to surround Rin. After enjoying a few precious heartbeats of peace the Amurai commander was back at dispensing lethal winter magic into the unending stream of monsters that attacked him. Rin could not tell how long he fought or how many chimera he killed in that time. His world had been reduced down to nothing but physical suffering born of battle fatigue and emotional turmoil forged in hate turned inward. Each kill Rin made and every blow landed against him sent his seething anger soaring to new heights.

Amid a haze of blue burning frosty vapor that enveloped him, Rin finally broke through to a new state of being. He felt more than control over nature, he felt nature itself. From this moment, back to the dawn of creation Rin’s blood sang with an all knowing song that tied him to every stone, tree and drop of rain that had ever been in Argaia. The boy screamed with a wash of bright blue energy pouring from all of his body as he took control of the earth under his feet.

The ground started to shake violently as Rin put his dominance into execution. Soon the frozen summit that towered over the field started to spilt and break. The earth fell in on itself as Rin commanded the chimera’s mountain to crumble. The beasts that surrounded Rin were consumed by the sinkhole opening in underneath. In moments the vast network of tunnels and caves that lead to the chimera’s enormous underground warrens were collapsed and filled with rubble and snow. Rin’s fury brought down a mountain.

All was madness for a few horrific moments as Rin became destruction incarnate. As fast as it began, so it ended. Rin lay in the snowy crater that had once been a grand subterranean city for the children of the red rains. Now it was only he and the dead who occupied this tomb of cold. Broken and battered, Rin smiled and started to laugh uncontrollably as the thrill of his victory hit him like a tidal wave. The boy’s laugh echoed for all of Frostdale to hear.

***

From its perch far from the fighting Koin heard the sound of unchained laughter rising out of the pit where it’s mountain had once been. The elder chimera scoffed at the grating sounds and gnashed its teeth at the aftermath of what was supposed to be a decisive defeat for the Argaian army. The perverted goat-thing shook its horned head and lamented the lost treasure trove of riches it had seen buried under tons of ice and rock. While Koin was sullen about the upset victory the Amurai had managed to accomplish, it had to remind itself that an Argain victory, however unlikely was a contingency that had been planned for. The thought of seeing the humans grow overconfident on the back of this battle helped to soothe Koin’s wounded spirit.

“Laugh all you want, child. See your gloating take you all the way to Rustwatch. My cousin waits for you there. You will die just like those Redmoon fools,” Koin grumbled. The beast hobbled off into the wilds of Frostdale, plotting how to amass a new fortune of gold, jewels and material wealth. Past its greed, Koin had to acknowledge a measure of relief, knowing that Hammurabis would be the one to end the boy who had toppled a mountain. Koin had no want to test its own mettle against such a foe. The thought of facing the hero child one on one put a tinge of fear in the base of Koin’s spine. The beast spat and huffed as it quelled its distress with thoughts of shining trinkets and trifles. Koin wandered into the unforgiving wilds of Frostdale as the biting cold at its back pushed the creature southward, towards the lure of riches to be won and humans to conquer.

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